Old realpolitiker Henry Kissinger was in the news recently when he sat down with Donald Trump, to give him the benefit of his experience. It brought to mind Kissinger’s numerous attempts to get Israel out of the territories it conquered in 1967, before, during and – especially – after the Yom Kippur War.
Kissinger went to Iraq in December of 1975 to try to wean the regime away from the Soviet Union and improve relations with the US. In a discussion with Sa’dun Hammadi, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Kissinger suggested that American support for Israel was a result of Jewish political and financial power, promised that the US would work to force Israel back to pre-1967 boundaries, and indicated that while the US would not support the elimination of Israel, he believed that its existence was only temporary. Here is an excerpt (the whole thing is worth reading):
I think, when we look at history, that when Israel was created in 1948, I don’t think anyone understood it. It originated in American domestic politics. It was far away and little understood. So it was not an American design to get a bastion of imperialism in the area. It was much less complicated. And I would say that until 1973, the Jewish community had enormous influence. It is only in the last two years, as a result of the policy we are pursuing, that it has changed.
We don’t need Israel for influence in the Arab world. On the contrary, Israel does us more harm than good in the Arab world. You yourself said your objection to us is Israel. Except maybe that we are capitalists. We can’t negotiate about the existence of Israel, but we can reduce its size to historical proportions. I don’t agree that Israel is a permanent threat. How can a nation of three million be a permanent threat? They have a technical advantage now. But it is inconceivable that peoples with wealth and skill and the tradition of the Arabs won’t develop the capacity that is needed. So I think in ten to fifteen years, Israel will be like Lebanon—struggling for existence, with no influence in the Arab world. [my emphasis] …
Kissinger also promised that aid to Israel, which he presented as a result of Jewish political influence, would be significantly reduced. He indicated that legal changes in the US – he must have been referring to the creation of the Federal Electoral Commission in 1974 to regulate campaign contributions – would attenuate Jewish power and therefore American support for Israel. Naturally, he didn’t foresee the Israel-Egypt peace agreement, which permanently established a high level of military aid to both countries.
He further promised that the US would support a PLO-run Palestinian state if the PLO would accept UNSC resolution 242 and recognize Israel. This of course is what (supposedly) happened in the Oslo accords.
Kissinger insisted that “No one is in favor of Israel’s destruction—I won’t mislead you—nor am I.” But his hint that a smaller Israel might not survive is clear. Surely he understood that a pre-1967-sized Israel (within what Eban called “Auschwitz lines”) would have no chance of surviving, simply because of the strategic geography of the area.
Kissinger was wrong about the Arabs developing the capability to challenge Israel, but their place has been taken by soon-to-be-nuclear Iran and its proxies, who are significantly more dangerous than the Arab states ever were.
US policy, however, has kept more or less the same shape, except that the hypocrisy of insisting that the US supports the existence of Israel but in a pre-1967 size is even more glaring. The substitution of the PLO for the Arab states as the desired recipient of the land to be taken from Israel has barely made a ripple either in America or among the Arabs, suggesting that the policy is more about Israel giving up land than about the Arabs getting it.
The original motivation for Kissinger’s promises was supposedly the desire of the US to replace the Soviet Union as the patron of the Arab states. After the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War in 1991, however, there was no change in policy. Although the Oslo Accords were initiated by left-wing Israelis, the US eagerly embraced them, and the so-called ‘peace process’ became a permanent stick to beat Israel with.
President Obama is especially adept at emphasizing support for Israel’s existence while at the same time demanding that Israel make concessions that would make her continued existence impossible. Apparently agreeing with Kissinger about Jewish power, Obama has worked to reduce the pro-Israel influence of American Jews in numerous ways, such as by providing access to the White House for groups like J Street and the Israel Policy Forum, while marginalizing traditional Zionist organizations like ZOA.
Kissinger’s almost antisemitic claim that US support for Israel is bought with Jewish money was probably untrue in 1975 and is even less so today, when a large proportion of American Jews, including wealthy ones, have chosen their liberal or progressive politics over Zionism. The coming struggle over the introduction of a pro-Palestinian plank into the Democratic platform is an indication that the party and with it, many of its Jewish supporters, is moving toward Obama’s position.
The Obama Administration’s program to extricate itself from the Middle East by empowering Iran as the new regional power has given a new impetus to the policy of shrinking Israel. Iran sees Israel as a major obstacle to its hegemony, for both geopolitical and religious/ideological reasons, and is committed to eliminating the Jewish state. Obama found it necessary to restrain Israel from bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities at least once (in 2012), and seems to be prepared to sacrifice Israel in order to achieve his goal of establishing Iranian regional dominance.
Some would go even further and say that Obama’s primary ideological goal is to eliminate Israel and the Iranian gambit is a means to this end, but that is highly speculative! Or maybe it’s a matter of two birds with one stone.
Henry Kissinger didn’t do us any favors, but I think the anti-Israel thread in American policy would have been strong enough without him, running from Truman’s Secretary of State George C. Marshall all the way to Obama’s stable of anti-Zionists like Rob Malley and Ben Rhodes.
Today Israel is long gone from the Sinai, more recently from Gaza, and probably only thanks to the disintegration of Syria, still holding the Golan Heights. I would like to believe that PM Netanyahu was correct when he said that Israel will never leave the Golan. Regarding Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, I expect that we are about to begin a very difficult time, as the Obama Administration is likely to mount a campaign in its last days to fulfill Kissinger’s promise to the Arabs at long last.